Close calls on farms need to be identified to learn how farmers work and how accidents can be prevented, Dr Denis O’Hora, Chartered Psychologist, NUI Galway told the Health and Safety Authority conference on farm safety in Kilkenny today.

Close calls, he said are much more common than deaths and are lead indicators. “We have to identify these near misses. We have to learn from farmers what is going on. Close calls are a moment where people can make a change.”

He said that farmers need to take the time to pay full attention to what they are doing and its not just stressful situations that cause distractions. “You’re working, thinking about the kids coming home at the weekend and how great it will be to see them, even this positive thought can take you out of the moment and distract you.”

Lone workers, across the board in industry, are more likely to be involved in safety incidents, he said. “Being self employed means you are the CEO, the plumber, the accountant, the site manager. And self employment tends to happen more in dangerous industries.

“Because you have all of these roles, you will be better at some than others. And the ones you are not so good at you tend to leave till last. It’s human nature. Each additional role increases stress.
You’ve got to learn to work in a ‘wise’ way of working.”

Over 3,000 people have been injured in farm incidents, according to Teagasc Director Gerry Boyle. He said that along with circulatory diseases and cancers, accidental deaths have been identified by Teagasc as the main causes of death among farmers.

Adoption of safer measures and methods of working by farmers, he said, is vital. “Nearly three quarters of farmers consider health and safety to be an integral part of their business. But we need to bridge that awareness with practical change. That challenge relates to knowledge transfer.”

Two major studies on health and safety on farms have been done by Teagasc recently. One of the key messages is that the farmer has to be at the centre of the health and safety message. No one else can address the health and safety challenge. they must identify the hazard and provide the solutions. “We are there to support but the farmer must take the decisions.”

Boyle also said: “Identifying hazards and how to address those hazards is key. But participation by farmers in adopting safer methods and attitudes on farms is necessary.”